There's been an interesting debate developing around whether or not it's anti-democratic for the official top brass to endorse candidates running in a contested election. For those who are opposed it seems to say 'Sure, you *can* vote for the other candidate, but really, it's against policy'.
Let's look at the current Green Party deputy leadership election. Here we have Derek Wall running against Adrian Ramsay, both known and respected figures in the party, but of course Adrian is not just the incumbent he is also running as a joint ticket with the uncontested (and currently unbeatable) Caroline Lucas. Some people clearly think this is a problem.
Personally I'm OK with this because, to me, it seems like useful information to know who Caroline's preferred deputy is. Also the fact that they are running as a team implies a shared political vision or approach, which again is useful information to those deciding where to place their support. The fact that it is overwhelmingly seen as an (undue?) advantage to Adrian is simply because Lucas is well respected in the party - but doesn't this mean her opinion counts and should be heard? Members should have received their ballot papers this week and will still have the option of voting for Derek as deputy, no matter how official Caroline's endorsement may feel to some.
This is a far cry from the way far-left groupings organise their internal leadership elections. These are decided by the hardcore activists (usually by show of hands) at conferences under the watchful eye of organisers, rather than by post to all members in a secret ballot. They also always use slate systems which suffocate debate, reducing members' options to being in favour or opposed to the official party selection. This gives tremendous weight to a self-perpetuating leadership and all but declares even nuanced disagreement on (or among) candidates as an automatic ticket to political Coventry, which is even worse than the actual Coventry - if you can imagine such a thing.
That's better than CAAT though. I was horrified when I discovered that the Campaign Against Arms Trade has no elections at all but some sort of nebulous self-selected body of elders. It ticks along pretty nicely without all that fuss of members deciding how their money is spent or anything. They still manage to make a worthwhile contribution to the movement, but I think that's inadequate for any organisation that does not want to get mired in conservatism or risk becoming a self-sustaining clique.
For me tickets, like the Lucas/Ramsay combined candidacy provide a useful function as long as members have the power to buck the recommendations if they so choose, which in the Greens they do because they still vote for individuals, not lists. However, I would draw the line at 'official' tickets, which seem inappropriate, painting those unlucky enough not to be on that list as unrepresentative of the organisation, when surely that's what the election is there to decide.
An interesting variation on this is the Fawcett Society's internal trustee elections, which are taking place at the moment. Here members are being asked to elect six of nine candidates (using the completely inappropriate STV system). The existing Fawcett board provide their recommendations of which six they want members to elect to help to run it which goes out with the candidate statements.
While I'm not informed enough to quibble with the out-going board's recommendation which is probably sound (and the London Library use the same system) this process does seem to have a few ethical issues when it comes to accountability and openness.
Caroline Lucas endorsing Adrian may *feel* like the official endorsement of the Green Party to some members but it falls far short of the Fawcett option of the organisation actually telling members who it wants them to elect to hold it to account.
Note: If Green Party members want to submit a question to the online leadership hustings send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject header 'hustings question'. Put your name and local party in the email and if your question is for a specific position (either leader or deputy) remember to specify that.